mercredi 22 août 2012

Laschamps to Aydat day 4 and 5

We left Archipel Volcans around 10am on the fourth day.  This place could have been amazing, I mean it's perfectly situated, and the building and grounds are spacious, modern and there's lots to keep children amused in the gardens (trampoline, football, bowling.....)
But it turned out to be our least favourite place we stayed in.  Firstly the staff changed all the time, the person who greeted us, who was lovely, by the way, we never saw again. Same thing for the person on the front desk, never the same face, at breakfast too, and when we left, another new face. It just felt a bit unfriendly and lacked atmosphere.  The food too, was disappointing, looked good, but fade, and they never used any wonderful local produce available in this region, for example, cheese, the only opportunity to taste some, was at breakfast!
Off we went, on to Aydat, it was hot again, walked quickly and covered the 13 or so kilometers fast.  On the way down to Aydat, we passed Chocolat's field for the night and decided rather than force him to walk to the hotel with our bags and then walk up again, we'd unload our stuff then and there and left him to graze.

Our hotel was 20 meters from the lake and our room was clean and had a tv which pleased the children.  We slept upon arriving, only to go down for dinner that evening.  The food was good, the terrace quiet at first then later noisy, not a problem, but the amount of smokers were.
The next day, we hiked up high on the other side of the lake, then dropped down to have a picnic on a small strip of beach which we had all to ourselves.

After, the children played and we read.
And we shared a lake chilled beer, can't get much better than that.

mardi 21 août 2012

3rd Day at Laschamps

We woke up early on our third day, stepped outside onto the balcony to greet a cloudless day and a donkey, our donkey I hasten to add, that had escaped his enclosure, and was happily grazing in the field next to our hotel.

Alain, Alexis and Marie-Kate were given the task to spoil his fun and take him back to where he was supposed to be (where you see the trees in the background, so not far)

View walking back from the Puy Pariou

As it was going to be a very hot day and we were going to hike where it was unsuitable for Chocolat, we decided to leave him in the shade of his field, making sure he had plenty of water for the day, then we were off.  We didn't want to climb to the Puy de Dome, instead we chose to carry on to the Puy Pariou, which Alexis had visited with his class earlier in the year.   Alexis and I walked faster than Alain and Marie-Kate and we climbed the 524 steps to the ridge of the volcano quite quickly. Wow it was stunning and the view all around too.
Marie-Kate, who had previously refused to climb up,  actually did it in the end, but as soon as she reached the summit, she wanted to go down straight away, so that we did.

We had a great day and walked about 14 kilometers.  When we got back to the hotel, naughty Chocolat was to be found on on the hotel's lawn, he'd escaped again.  Funnily enough, four other donkeys joined him during the day and not one of them managed to escape, just our coquin donkey.   To make up for leaving him, we took him for a long walk before dinner.
It wasn't over though, he escaped whilst we were eating dinner, and again the following morning he was on the loose, but not far away, just an antisocial donkey, who didn't like his fellow friends and preferred his own company or that of humans.  A liked this donkey.

Birthday tart and cake

This weekend we ate lots of good food and made the most of the weather, even if it was a little too hot for all of us.  Alain made dinner Saturday night, some new fish fillets and some amazing courgette cakes.  And to finish off with, Alain made, with MK's help a yummy strawberry and mascarpone tart (from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries) for a very belated birthday treat for me.
Sunday, it was my turn to cook.  This time to celebrate Alain's 38th birthday and Oliver's 18th.  This was my first opportunity to bake a cake for either birthday, so this one, for once, was to be a shared cake.  Once again, this was another recipe taken from Nigel Slater's book, a lemon and pistachio cake with crystallized rose petals, that Gaby helped me with.
 It was a fabulous cake, even if I do say so myself.  Moist and buttery, filled with pistachios and covered with some lovely lemon icing, more pistachios and of course, those rose petals.
 Really this cake was just awesome and has been a main subject of conversation even since, just the thought of it makes my tummy rumble....

Guess what?  At this very moment, I'm baking another Nigel Slater cake, not the same, no that was has to be kept for very special occasions, no, this time it's a frosted orange marmalade cake...can't wait to taste it.

samedi 18 août 2012

En Route for Laschamps still day two

Second day, the longest day, we walked over 21kms, got lost a bit, walked a long a treachrous path, very donkey unfriendly, before turning back. A word of warning, don't try to walk up Le Puy de la Vache with a donkey and grumpy children!
There were lots of people about, and I can understand why, with various paths to choose from and a no car environment, it's a great place to spend the day.
We were warned forehand that we'd have a stream to cross, I thought there might have been stepping stones but alas not, however there was a concrete beam on the side to walk over, good for me, but not for Chocolat.  Alain, Alexis and Marie Kate braved the freezing cold water (yes apparently it was) to cross to the other side
Here's another pretty roof, photo quality isn't great, but you can still make out the diamond shaped tiles

 We arrived at our second destination tired and hot.  Above is the view we had from our balcony, one of the Puy de Dome.

Before eating we had a great local beer.   The meal was ok,  but they didn't cook using local regional produce which was pity.

Auvergne with two children and a donkey (Pessade to Orcival)

Meet Chocolat, our donkey for a week, the one that carried our 17kilos of luggage 83 kms over a six day period.  We picked him up in Pessade (Rando Ane) a a round 11am on our second day (first night camping next to Lac Aydat).

 After going over how to car for a donkey and where to find the fields to put him in of a night, we were off.  Above is a view after Pessade towards where we were heading.

After about ten kilometers this is where we stayed for the night, Orcival.  We really loved this village and looking back, this is where we ate out best meal.  A delicous Saint Nectaire Tart, followed by a so tender beef casserole (paleron), then a cheese platter and a creme brulée.  If you are even in Orcival, go and check out the Hotel de la Cassade, it's a bit stuck in a time warp but the owners are lovely and the food, well, fantastic.

One of the many things are love about this region of France, a part from the food and the people, is the architecture, especially the roofs shapes and slate used.
Alexis and Marie Kate preferred what was housed under that roof, a chocolate artisan.

We only stayed here for one night and the night day we made our way to Laschamps (more to follow)
The church in the background is called Notre Dame. On the outside walls you can see prisoner's balls and chains hanging.  This church is devoted to freed prisoners.


We are back, after three weeks of holiday's in different regions of France, it's good to be back.  
The weather is blisteringly hot (too hot for me, reminds me of the heat in the south of France), and apparently it's going to last until at least Thursday!
We ate a Little Gem and peach salad with a fromage blanc dressing for lunch and it was good.   
Tonight Alain's making zucchini cakes and cod with lime and thyme and a strawberry and mascarpone tart to follow, lucky me, no cooking and a much delayed birthday tart to enjoy (fingers crossed)